Readings for July 7, 2019
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
The 72 were sent out to prepare the harvest. They were chosen to be the hands and feet of Christ. They went out completely at the mercy of God’s goodness and returned rejoicing at what they had seen and done in Jesus’ name. Yet there is no mention of a single one of them being present at the Cross. Perhaps they left in astonishment of Jesus’ teaching that his flesh is real food and his blood is real drink (John 6:55-66). Perhaps they scattered in fear when the rulers of the people seemingly won the day with their earthly power (Mark 14:50). Or, perhaps over the three years of Jesus’ ministry they just got busy with other parts of their lives.
Today, church pews are emptying at increasing rates, and studies indicate “no religion” is now the religion of choice for a majority of people. Even those who once worshipped and praised, those who rejoiced in “His tremendous deeds,” are now walking their own way, away from the traditions and sacraments that were born from the teachings of Jesus.
But why? From what I read and hear, many people today are put off, even offended, when someone says they are “religious,” or “Christian,” or “Catholic.” It seems that these words no longer simply connote love, faith, and generosity, but have begun to develop a reputation for being judgmental, hateful, or corrupt.
Admittedly, the criticism isn’t altogether unjustified. Grave human sin by some who were ordained to be shepherds have invited skepticism and disdain. Also, the politicization of religious beliefs pits one side against another in order to win votes, leading to starkly divided moral chaos more often than changed hearts. And too often I hear some Christian apologists arrogantly focus more on what others are doing wrong in place of proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. It seems far too easy to call out others’ sins rather than recognize and seek repentance for our own.
The criticism of us humans who run afoul of the teachings we deem to espouse may be valid, but they do not fully account for abandoning the institution of the church as Jesus set forth with the Apostles. More so, it seems we’ve bungled the message with our condemning words, our self-aggrandizing piety, and our holier-than-thou attitudes. Frankly, when our words and behaviors exude a sense of judgment or entitlement because of our beliefs, then we have failed to be fruitful laborers for Christ. We cannot prepare the harvest until we, as the early disciples did, go out and live our lives in complete vulnerability to the mercy of God’s goodness—and that means leaving others to be vulnerable to it as well, sometimes shaking the dust from our feet and moving on.
Moving on is our call to focus intently on living the joy of the Christ’s love rather than on bemoaning the distress of our culture. Because, whatever may distress me or my brothers and sisters, in the end, God wins. The gates of Hell will not prevail against what Jesus established through his suffering, death and resurrection (Matthew 16:18).
We, humbly flawed but chosen, are today’s laborers for Christ. We must not abandon him. We must live as we believe, knowing that the joy of his message of love and forgiveness will always be culturally relevant. We will face persecution and we will encounter pain. But we can silently boast in our hearts of bearing the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, joyfully accepting the trials we face because we are fully immersed in the love story of our Creator God. And our lives can radiate that joy because we know from the center of our beings that He lives within us, providing “peace and mercy to all who follow.”
When we face trials …
If anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.
-St. John of the Cross
In all other times …
Shout joyfully to God, all the earth, proclaim His glorious praise! Let all on earth worship and sing praise to You, sing praise to Your name! Come and see the works of God, His tremendous deeds.